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The sample individual is a Non-gendered person named Sef. During their life, Sef had a very strong personal connection with Dionysos, and was a big believer in the Orphic theology surrounding death.
Assembly, Opening Libations and Eulogy
This portion of the ritual states the intention for gathering, and recognizes the life of the person as well as the contributions of the deities who helped them through life. It is also a strong custom in our time and place to eulogize the dead. This serves as a preliminary invocation of the soul and spirit of the person to whom the assembled people will be tending.
Officiant: “We have gathered in the spirit of sorrow and gratitude to honor the life of Sef, mourn their passing, and to aide their passage to the Underworld, and through that passage, to new life”
Officiant: “Hestia, goddess of hearth and home, who tended to Sef their whole life long, to whom they always made offerings, both first and last, ever present in the warmth of their kitchen, come now to us as we remember their life.”
[Libation to Hestia]
Officiant: “Dionysos, in the merit of Sef, who served you well in life, I beg of you lend ear. Be present and be honored, as we honor the life and memory of the one whom you tended to and nurtured while they lived.”
[A libation to Dionysos]
“We thank you for Sef and all that they contributed to our community. I will now invite anyone who wishes to speak about the life of Sef and to raise a toast to the gods that nurtured them in life.”
Each Participant: [tells anecdote, or describes the person or their contributions] [A libation to Hestia and to the patron or patrons of the deceased.]
Libations to the Psychopomps
Officiant: “Hermes, psychopomp, wherever Sef may be, if they be not comforted, then go to them and on winged foot, bring them to our rite, that we may aide their passage to the next transmigration, in accordance with their living will. And if they are happy and content, do not bring them, but rather leave the dead lie. Please, O Great Mover of Souls, you together with Chthonian Hekate, convey our tenderest regards to Sef and also our offerings to them which we shall make.”
[A libation to Hermes and Hekate]
Officiant: [Laying hands on the skull] “Sef, if your soul still lingers, come to us. Let us tend to you, and bring you peace.”
The ‘remains’ are now prepared for burial.
It was traditional to wash and anoint the body in preparation for burial. In communities still practicing natural burial customs, this is still done. Death doulas sometimes do this work. The Orthodox Jewish community has a group of women called the “Chevra Kadisha” literally meaning, “Holy Fellowship,” who tend to the dead in this exact manner. This work, however, is not for everyone. It is assumed, for the purpose of this memorial, that we are dealing with a ceramic skull, and not actual human remains.
While we may not think about it too much, there is a strong American custom of washing, embalming, painting and displaying human remains. By mirroring this process, we can make the ceramic skull into a better proxy for our friend, so that we can give them their Oboloi, Orphic tablet, or Talisman of Passage. While the instructions to do so are not given here, painting the skull could be a meaningful addition, to some communities.
Officiant: “We will now wash and anoint the dead. Afterwords, I will invite all who wish to participate to do likewise. You may use the words I use, or your own words, or no words at all.” (Placed the skull in a large flat bowl.)
Officiant: “Sef, I wash you in the waters of memory. As we remember you, may you remember us.” [pours water over the skull]. — I now invite those gathered to purify our friend for their journey in death.”
Each participant: “Sef, I wash you in the waters of memory. As we remember you, may you remember us.” [pours water over the skull].
Officiant: “Sef, I anoint you with sweet oil. May it soothe the pain of living and dying and being born again.” [pours oil over the skull] . — I now invite those gathered to anoint our friend to ease their journey in death.”
Each participant: “Sef, I anoint you with sweet oil. May it soothe the pain of living and dying and being born again.” [pours oil over the skull].
The Officiant now raises up the skull, dries it, places it on a small symbolic bier, silently places Oboloi or Talismans of Passage into the eyes of the skull, or attaches, in whatever way makes the most sense, the Orphic tablet. Then, a wreath is placed on its brow.
Officiant: “Gather around our friend. Let us voice our grief in song.”
The Officiant leads the people, gathered around the altar containing the prepared skull, in a chant or dirge. Several may be sung, according to the desires of the community.
Officiant: “By our traveling, we bring the soul of Sef to the throne of Persephone and to new life. As the dead travel in silence, so, too, shall we.”
The Officiant and people carrying the bier form the head of the procession, and lead the other mourners to the burial site.
Traditionally, only close family members would have made the food and libation offerings to the dead. In the case of a person whose close family cannot or will not do this for them, the officiating clergy should do so, as a proxy. The libations to the Underworld gods here consist of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. It was also customary to offer the blood of an animal, which was believed to make the dead communicative and conscious again.
Dig a pit. All of the libations should be poured into it, the food offerings placed into it, and the skull buried there when all is finished.
Officiant: [knocks on the ground] “Persephone, Hades, Great Lady and Lord of the Underworld, who receive all without distinction, who offer hospitality to all without reservation, to you, and to your children, we pour out a libation fitting for your station. The milk that sustains the newborn, honey from the sweet flowers of the field in the world above — a product of brief but industrious activity, waters from the seas on which living men and women sail, oil pressed from olives, and perfumes created by the genius and wits of living humans. Receive, O gods of death, a gift from the world of the living.
[Libation to Hades and Persephone]
“And remember, Persephone, that while you rule in the Underworld as Queen, still, you long to return to your mother in the world above. It is our aspiration too. Therefore, as you raise up with the falling of the rain, bring also the soul of (deceased) to the world of the living with you. Let them suckle milk as a newborn, smells the sweet flowers of the field, grow up and become industrious, travel as they see fit — may there be oil for their bread, and may their genius help them to create things which are as well-cherished as the smell of sweet perfume.
[Blood or a substitute is poured out for the dead]
“Arise, Sef and gather up strength for the journey. Take these gifts with you on the way.”
[Place food offerings into the pit along with any other thing you wish to dedicate to the deceased]
Officiant: [picks up the skull] “And now, Sef, we commit you into the arms of Gaia, gods speed you on your journey.”
The offerings and skull, along with tokens of passage, are buried. The participants should process to an indoor place to be purified.
Before the Perideipnon, participants, ritual implements, tables, and all else should be washed or asperged with water and hyssop. This does not need to be done with any liturgy, and is, in fact, better done with a spirit of “washing one’s hands” of the grieving, the grave dirt, and the heaviness of mourning.
Participants, once purified, can pick up whatever potluck items they brought and picnic blankets, and walk, more casually, back to the site of the burial to feast.